“Cub Petting” is about making a lot of money from customers who want to pay for the pleasure of cuddling and petting a lion or tiger cub. The operators of these businesses are inherently unethical in their behavior. It is worse than that. I explain what I mean below.
The operators are inherently unethical because they are abusing vulnerable big cat cubs in the most exploitative way. That is the starting point.
In order to maximize profit they sometimes engage in the following misdeeds:
- Speed breeding — kittens are removed from their mothers hours after being born. In the wild the mother will care for her cubs for as long as 2 years. The operators do this to allow the mother to produce more litters. This can compromise the mother’s health and that of her offspring.
- Malnourished — The infant cubs are bottle fed with a formula that can be deliberately inadequate and lacking in the proper nutrients such as calcium to force the cubs to stay smaller for longer. The malnourished cubs develop a condition called metabolic bone disease (MBD). In one case, reported on International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), three cubs, Blackfire, Rocklyn and Peyton, were unable to stand properly and they cried when they tried to walk.
Blood tests showed low blood calcium levels and multiple fractures in the pelvis and limbs of the cubs (see X ray). Blackfire’s pelvis was deformed making it difficult to defecate and causing constipation.
IFAW sorted out these problems but not the deformities which may never heal.
The public face of cub petting is one of cute tiger cubs being cuddled. It all looks so nice and sweet. What could be wrong? Everything is wrong. Customers should be aware of what goes on in the background.
It does not matter what the big cat attraction is, it is always a form of exploitation of varying severity. In the example of the three cubs mentioned, the abuse is about as bad as it can get but it is all hidden from public view. It is a con. It is fraudulent behavior. These operators should be universally banned.
Perhaps they are in some places. But it needs to be across the board. And customers need to be more sensitive to the welfare of these animals and less concerned with their selfish entertainment. The customers are easy to con. They don’t want to look beyond their own pleasures.
And what is galling is that sometimes cub petting operators claim to be involved in conservation. Please spare me the crappy public relations spiel. Cub petting has no connection to conservation. The cats are not purebred but big cat hybrids. They are not Bengal tigers or Siberian tigers and so on. They are a mixture and they are unable to survive in the wild. They are bred to entertain paying customers. Nothing less or more. When they can no longer earn money for their owner they are discarded. Or they are used to breed more cubs.
Associated: White tiger exploitation.